WASHINGTON — The European Space Agency gave contracts to ArianeGroup and MT Aerospace on May 14 to develop a prototype upper stage that could lead to an advanced carbon-composite upgrade for the Ariane 6 rocket.
ArianeGroup, the Franco-German company building Europe’s Ariane 6 rocket, and subcontractor MT Aerospace of Augsburg, Germany, received funding repurposed from a previously scuttled Ariane 6 project to instead develop the “Prototype of a Highly Optimized Black Upper Stage,” or PHOEBUS.
ESA member states decided last May to reallocate 70 million euros ($78.4 million at current exchange rates) to lightweight upper stage technologies and keep production of the P120C strap-on booster in Italy rather than spending it on creating a second production line in Germany. Those funds, provided by Germany, are being channeled into the two PHOEBUS contracts, as well as other programs, Jérôme Breteau, head of ESA’s Future Launchers Preparatory Program, told SpaceNews.
Breteau said by email that the majority of the PHOEBUS program is funded, with a small amount expected to come from ESA’s ministerial conference this November in Seville, Spain, where its 22 member states will decide on funding levels for current and future programs.
An upper stage built with ...